Surprisingly, you can teach an old Archgoat a new bleat.
Words by Sean Wright (@stainedglassrevelation):
War metal. It’s a term in the underground that is either hailed, or mocked, cheered or jeered, loved or hated. There is no in between. It’s also been a sub-genre label that has been up for debate for as long as I’ve heard of the term. That length of time goes all the way back to when Florida’s Black Witchery first started making waves in the underground when most people were still discovering Cradle Of Filth and Dimmu Borgir. That’s not me being elitist or snooty, that’s just how long certain things have been debated since more innocent and fresh times. For a certain period, it was referred to by the archaic mocking term as Kvltfago. Then somewhere down the line, people started calling it war metal again. The age old argument that war metal is any band that talks about the subject of war, which people think to be bands such as Sabaton, Jungle Rot, and Bolt Thrower due to the lyrical nature. They can go ahead and rationalize all they want, but it couldn’t be further from the truth. War metal pretty much begins and ends with Canada's Blasphemy with the release of their 1990 debut album on Wild Rags, infamously titled Fallen Angel Of Doom. That is essentially the blueprint of what war metal is: bestial black aetal about as aggressive, raw, and vicious as the genre gets. The roots of war metal go back to what Brazil’s Sarcofago unleashed with their classic and unduplicated I.N.R.I. album. That single particular album germinated a seed of rotten fruit for those that dwell in the northern hemispheres to partake in and feast upon for decades to come. Beyond Blasphemy, you also have Finland’s Beherit and Archgoat. The unholy triptykon of war metal would be those particular 3. Blasphemy hasn’t released any new material since 1993 (besides countless live compilations from Nuclear War Now Productions) and Beherit has gone through stylistic changes since The Oath of Black Blood compilation LP (that’s another argument for a different day), but Archgoat? They have been the most consistent with their style and also the only ones to constantly release new material every so often, never deviating from their sound.
First and foremost, Archgoat return after 2018’s The Luciferian Crown. In that small time period, a lot has changed, not just in terms of the underground but Archgoat’s sound. Underground-wise, there has been even more of an interest and expansion of war metal-related acts such as Teitanblood, Weregoat, Tetragrammacide, Antichrist Siege Hammer, Human Agony, etc. While some of those are taking what Archgoat did earlier in their career to new extremes, Archgoat has focused on, dare I say, evolving into something that is just as good now as they were when only 50 people knew of them back in 1993. The biggest and most noticeable change is the sound production. Prior to WTED, Archgoat more or less kept the same sound production blueprint as laid-down by Blasphemy, Beherit, and Sarcofago. Well, if you consider it a sound production considering it was all those particular bands could even afford at the time and they were just following the same raw blueprint as the first wave of black metal bands. Fast forward to 2021, Archgoat have slowly crawled out of that raw dark past and made it somewhat clearer on riff changes, drum patterns, vocals, etc. Riffs alternate between Finnish black/death metal that borderline grindcore at times. Vocals are clearer and you can hear the depth of the inhuman growls instead of a shouted murk. There is synth here and there, but all it does is add to the satanic atmosphere that they have helped laid the groundwork to over two plus decades ago. Nothing grandeur, dungeon-like, or classical, just simple horror-themed synth. The spooky satanic intros are still intact. The Chris Moyen artwork greets the listener with the blasphemous visual(s). Again, evolution yet consistent.
10 tracks of standard Archgoat affair are here. You know what you are getting, but the flow here is more well-balanced out. Starting the album off with a spooky intro which goes directly into the first single Heaven Ablaze, Archgoat waste no time in ripping through said heavens with blast beats and gutturals and bestial growls, which continue into the second single Black Womb Gnosis. As Christianity Ends is the first moment where we see Archgoat branching out and changing the tempo palette. The song slows it down to a doom-like dirge, think Inquisition’s Desolate Funeral Chant. In Extremis Nazarene goes right back into the blasts while Rats Prey God, another great track, opens up with an intro that then goes into a playful but plentiful little blackened NWOBHM riff. This particular riff wouldn’t sound anything different out of what a band like Midnight would play. For Archgoat to have a riff as such, it’s good to see them take a moment and not take themselves too seriously and a sense of, shockingly, fun to their music. Not that Archgoat are a boring band by any means, but I commend them for not trying to keep up with a younger band such as Nyogthaeblisz. It shows that even old Archgoat can learn a new bleat. The next two tracks, Emperyen Armageddon and Blessed in the Light of Lucifer, are similar to the two opening tracks in being blast-fests. The title track goes back into the variation of blasts, breakdowns, and at various points...old-school skank beats? I’m down with that. The final song, Burial of Creation, is straight-up total old-school Drawing Down The Moon-era Beherit. Think of the blackened-doom vibe of Sadomatic Vibes and that’s exactly what you get at the pointy tail end of the latest Archgoat. It’s a fitting note to not only their peers, but to the band themselves who again also helped pioneer the entire genre of war metal.
One can say that war metal fundamentally hasn’t changed a single principal since day zero. Even through its waves of renewed interest by newer generations discovering it, it does not deviate from the original source of the unholy trinity of Blasphemy, Beherit, and Archgoat. It goes without saying that war metal is what it is at the end of the day. In essence it doesn’t NEED to evolve in the fact that it needs to have progressive arpeggio chords, random dissonant chords, syncopated riffs, tech guitar wankery, or anything that even remotely resembles whatever is currently behind touted and praised in the mainstream. It happily and comfortably finds its inner peace in making raw hellish noise that draws a certain crowd. Sometimes it captures the attention of people outside. I’ve seen members of modern day hardcore bands such as Nails and Terror sport their shirts onstage and offstage. That should tell you just how much bands like Archgoat have not only prevailed, persevered, but also had a major influence outside of the arguable rigid confines of its own style. You either take it or leave it. It’s not for everyone. For this reviewer, I’m glad that Archgoat has not altered their sound to try and throw itself against the wall for the sake of album sales or rave reviews from the mainstream press. I’m happy with the fact that they are the same band I first heard about and listened to on that 1999 Mess Des Morts split all those years back. While they may not be as raw and relentless, they're still carrying the war metal torch into a new decade. Thank Lucifer for that one.
Worship The Eternal Darkness arrives November 26th via Debemur Morti. Order it HERE.